Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I was so jealous.  Erik had acquired a toy Thompson Submachine gun for our WW2 forays into the hills above Stapleton patrolling for imaginary German soldiers, and all I had was a bolt-action 1903 Springfield trainer rifle that simulated single-shot fire.  Erik had 20 rounds ready to go in a single long burst in the form of a a sleek black and brown plastic spring action toy gun, whereas my wood and steel rifle's imaginary fire was solitary, followed by a four-fold mechanical action before I could sight and shoot it again.  Think of all those Germans that could evade my aim during those four movements, whereas Erik could mow them down en mass.

So I saved up and bought a Mattel 45. calibre WW2 toy Thompson Submachine gun at the dimestore for $19.95, to add suitable firepower to our patrols in the highlands of Staten Island in the early sixties.  Abandoned was my sturdy trainer Springfield rifle, which my father had bought for me at my request and brought home one day after work.  I wonder what this combat veteran thought while bringing home to his only son a training (unfiring) rifle when returning home after work one day.  In the war he used a 15-round single shot M-1 carbine, a fast-firing but underpowered short barreled weapon.

Both Erik's and my toy submachine guns were made by the Mattel toy company and they were well-put together and worked really well.  There was no Made-In-China crap in those days.  Erik's was a Dick Tracy police model that looked like the actual weapon carried by American soldiers in WW2, brown wooden stocks with black barrel and works.  Mine was identical except that it was Mattel's military model and it was painted all in green camouflage.  I envied the looks of Erik's model, but mine had a shoulder strap and his didn't.  We did some climbing on our five or six hour traipses through the hills on Saturdays and Sundays so the strap was very handy to sling the tommy gun with while we climbed trees, posts or fences.  Erik eventually fashioned a sling for his toy weapon, made out of white twine.

Both toy weapons are merely dim memories in the recesses of our minds now but I saw a well-preserved working military model toy gun on ebay a few years ago, in its original box, and it sold after a fearsome bidding war for over half a grand.  The way these toy guns operated was you pulled a bolt on the side of the gun back which coiled a long heavy spring inside the toy and when you pressed the trigger the coil unwound with a brring sound simulating machine gun fire.  You could uncoil the whole spring all at once--it took a couple of seconds--or operate the trigger on and off and on again and fire short bursts until the coil unwound.  Then you'd rip the bolt back and be ready to go again, the equivalent of putting a new magazine in with twenty more rounds.  

 Erik and I caused countless German patrols to recoil and we slew several enemy soldiers each time with our forty rounds of firepower on our weekend boy soldiering.  And never once did we worry that we would get shot by the police while we played out in public with our toy guns.  Times are much different now.

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